Ingredient Label Deep Dive | MSG

What is your first experience of hearing the letters MSG? I remember being a teenager and hanging out with my cousins. When deciding what to order for dinner, one of my cousins said no to a local Chinese restaurant because she was “allergic to MSG”. At the time, I had no clue what this meant. Now that I actively work in the food industry and have grown familiar with ingredients, MSG is something I am excited to shed light on.

Formally known as Monosodium Glutamate, MSG has been linked with obesity, metabolic disorders, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, neurotoxic effects and detrimental effects on the reproductive organs. What is Chinese Restaurant Syndrome? It involves a set of symptoms that some people have after eating food with the additive- which is commonly used in food prepared in Chinese restaurants. Defined in the dictionary as "a group of symptoms (such as numbness of the neck, arms, and back with headache, dizziness, and palpitations) that is held to affect susceptible persons eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate." Sounds like an ingredient you’d want to stay away from, right?!

How is MSG made? Several foods contain NATURAL MSG, such as tomatoes. However, this is not the same MSG that is dangerous to our bodies. The FDA shares that it is made by extracting and crystallizing MSG from seaweed broth, MSG is produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. This fermentation process is similar to that used to make yogurt, vinegar and wine.

After reports to the FDA of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG, they decided to act. The FDA called on the independent scientific group Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to examine the safety of MSG in the 1990s. FASEB’s report concluded that MSG is safe. The FDA site states, “The FASEB report identified some short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms, such as headache, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness that may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume 3 grams or more of MSG without food. However, they shared that a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG.”

As we shared within our last Ingredient Label Deep Dive, the risks of consuming more than the “safe” amounts are high. Especially in products that do not disclose the amounts or DV (daily values) in their products.

Making our Banned Ingredients List here at PrimalRock, we believe MSG should be spared from all food products we consume. Sadly, steering clear of late night Chinese food won’t protect you from the dangers of MSG. Quick meals like Lean Cuisine, Campbell’s Soup, Doritos, and even salad dressings contain this ingredient!

Doritos ingredients with MSG

Dressing bottle with MSG ingredients

Soup label with MSG

How can you protect yourself and your family from consumption of MSG? As we always share, read your ingredients label. Every product, every time. You would never expect a nice bowl of soup to be the home of this potentially dangerous chemical. Take this step further by shopping at whole, clean grocery stores (like PrimalRock) for snacks, meal ingredients, and more. As we shared, Lean Cuisine's quick and convenient options may have you second guessing how bad MSG really is. However, there are even cleaner options for quick meals! Launching soon, our Meals to Thrive program will provide safe, healthy meals for the whole family.

There are always ways to limit consumption of harmful ingredients, and we hope this helps you take another step in a cleaner direction.

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